Mitchell High School has been gobbled up by a late-season gauntlet, but head coach Todd Neuendorf is undeterred.
Following Tuesday’s 57-49 loss to Class AA No. 1 Sioux Falls Washington, the Kernels have lost four of their last five games. But each of the last five games has come against an opponent ranked in the South Dakota prep media poll currently or at the time of the game.
Mitchell played even with the Warriors for most of the game, but missed layups and unforced turnovers proved costly. The Kernels have lost four of their six games by less than 10 points, which has Neuendorf believing small corrections are needed with only a game against Aberdeen Central at 7 p.m. Friday remaining prior to the SoDak 16.
“There’s not a lot of things to fix,” Neuendorf said. “To be honest, we were probably making these mistakes earlier in the year, but they didn’t show up because nobody made you pay for them. You make small mistakes against a really good basketball team and it becomes a seven-point loss. Against better teams, the margin of errors is a lot smaller.”
After more than a month of constant double-teams, Zane Alm has put together stellar performances in back-to-back games. For the second consecutive game, Alm received one-on-one coverage and responded with a game-high 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting against Washington.
But much like when Caden Hinker was on a hot streak while Alm was seeing multiple defenders, he was the lone offensive stalwart. No other Kernel was in double figures as Hinker is now being faced with multiple defenders and was held to single-digits for the second time in three games.
“It’s been a tough couple games,” Hinker said. “But I know that when Zane doesn’t have the double, he’ll get his work done if I can’t get it going. … We just need to keep working it inside and playing our version of offense and keep playing our pace.”
In order to draw away extra defenders from Hinker or Alm, Mitchell must be able to make open shots. Previously, the Kernels struggled from the perimeter, but Lucas Moller connected on a pair of 3-pointers against the Warriors.
Instead, Mitchell’s woes came at the rim, shooting 44.1% on 2-point attempts after entering the game making 54.2% of 2-point field goals and 60.4% on shots at the rim.
So, Neuendorf remains optimistic that his team can rebound from its recent shooting slump and capitalize on open opportunities. In five of six losses this season, the Kernels have not hit the 50-point plateau.
“We’re not going to reinvent the wheel,” Neuendorf said. “We’re getting good looks and we’re getting what we want, we just have to finish it off and keep going in the same direction.”